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President George W. Bush meets with Dan Bartlett, center, and Josh Bolten in the Oval Office Jan. 9, 2003.  White House photo by Eric Draper.
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A Message About Budget & Performance Integration From Robert Shea:

Budget and Performance Integration

It’s been a long time since four agencies advanced to green on the Budget and Performance Integration Initiative during the same quarter. Congratulations to the Department of Commerce, the Department of Education, the General Services Administration, and the Smithsonian Institution for their perseverance and, more importantly, their performance. They demonstrated that they have clear performance measures and are using performance information to figure out how they can keep getting more for taxpayers’ dollars.

Programs and agencies sometimes have difficulty articulating what they are doing to make programs work better, a key to becoming green on the Budget and Performance Integration Initiative. It’s important not only to convince ourselves that we are doing everything we can to improve performance, but we must convince Congress and the American people, too.

Some in Congress have described agency use of performance information to justify budget proposals as “pleonastic”, as they did in the report accompanying this year’s House version of the FY 2007 Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill (H.Rpt. 109-495).

“ . . . [M]ost justifications continue to be filled with references to the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART), drowning in pleonasm, and yet still devoid of useful information. The Committee strongly encourages the administration to use a meaningful system of evaluation to justify proposed program funding levels, as long as the basis for the evaluations will also be shared with the Committee. The Committee finds little use for a budget justification which does not reveal specific details of the measurable indicators and standards used to evaluate a program’s performance, relevance, or adherence to underlying authorization statute.”

In case you didn’t know (I didn’t), the word pleonasm means: “the use of more words than are necessary to express an idea; redundancy.” This is not the feeling we want to leave Congress with when we are attempting to justify our budget proposals. Congress should know the basis for our proposals and why our proposals will make programs or agencies perform better. Simple references to PART, GPRA, evaluations or OMB do not persuade.

What does persuade? Clearly, there’s no single answer. But the Department of Education’s Congressional budget justification has been cited as a model that some may want to emulate. Education’s Budget Service head, Tom Skelly, recently briefed agency Budget and Performance Integration leads on some of the persuasive ways the Department uses performance information in its justification. Notably, the Department integrates performance information into its budget justification in three different ways:

  • A separate 25-page Performance Budget tab displaying budgets, programs, and key performance measures by strategic plan goal.
  • A detailed discussion of performance information – both GPRA and evaluation – in each program justification.
  • References to performance information and PART in the program account narratives.

For more of Tom’s presentation, go here. There is no single correct answer for all agencies. As Tom suggests, agencies have competing audiences, and you must consult with your customers in Congress before putting the final touches on your justifications.

If you want more information from Tom Skelly, contact me at I think we could all learn a lot from the Department of Education’s approach to Budget and Performance Integration.

Robert J. Shea
Counselor to the Deputy Director for Management

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